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Poll: Where are you along the cable divide?


Teresa
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Where are you along the cable divide?  

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There are more than two sides in the cable debate, I believe there are also areas of middle ground between the two extremes.

 

I believe speaker cable gauge makes a big difference in the power and the impact of low frequency instruments. The higher the gauge the lower the number. Speaker cables get thicker with lower gauge numbers. I find thin 18 to 24 gauge speaker cables to be too weak in the bass. And that with my speakers 12 or 10 gauge speaker cables provide me the most realistic deep low frequency energy.

 

With interconnects I believe good firm fitting connectors offer superior sound quality.

 

I suspect that good insulation materials in both speaker cables and interconnects offer lower noise and cleaner sound.

 

I believe well-made entry-level analog aftermarket cables offer superior sound quality over the junk sometimes included with audio equipment. Although I have doubts about digital cables sounding different, perhaps lower noise? I am not curious enough to experiment.

 

Yet, because I believe well-made cables have value, some on the anti-cable side often come back with the grossness of $10,000 cables. I am a poor audiophile and would never be in a position to try any $10,000 cables and have refrained from commenting on any high priced cable. Sal even questioned my morals because I refuse to go on a crusade against things I have not heard and cannot afford.

 

I replied to Paul R that the definition of expensive cables depends on what economic class the person is in. Personally, I consider speaker cable over $5 a foot, and analog and/or digital interconnects over $50 expensive. Entry level Monster and Blue Jeans cable make affordable well-made cables that don’t break the budget.

 

If one thinks more expensive cable is worth the extra expense I would just recommend getting a 30-day money back guarantee and play the hell out of them with a wide variety of music you love before the trial period is up.

 

In short, I just wanted to say the issue is not snake oil on one side versus megabuck cables sounding better on the other, I suspect more audiophiles are in the middle ground. I could be wrong, this poll should answer that.

 

Note: The votes are not public.

I have dementia. I save all my posts in a text file I call Forums.  I do a search in that file to find out what I said or did in the past.

 

I still love music.

 

Teresa

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I am pretty much middle ground on this. Definitely one can improve on zip cord for speaker cables. For some unknown reason, USB cables can make a heck of a difference in the sound of some DACs, but cables much over $100 seem to be snake oil candidates. Optical cables the same.

 

Uber expensive cables - say in the $30k/meter range, are almost certain to be snake oil, regardless of what they are connecting.

 

But, YMMV. If someone has the money and wants to spend it on $30k cables or interconnects, then God Bless 'em. I would not recommend that, but it is a free country!

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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Interesting poll Teresa. Let's hope it's not too provocative. I land somewhere in the middle and have found the biggest differences with loudspeaker cable (gauge in particular). Right now I'm using the incredibly affordable Blue Jeans 12-White loudspeaker cable with excellent results, proving to me one doesn't need to spend a fortune on wire.

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There are more than two sides in the cable debate, I believe there are also areas of middle ground between the two extremes.

 

I believe speaker cable gauge makes a big difference in the power and the impact of low frequency instruments. The higher the gauge the lower the number. Speaker cables get thicker with lower gauge numbers. I find thin 18 to 24 gauge speaker cables to be too weak in the bass. And that with my speakers 12 or 10 gauge speaker cables provide me the most realistic deep low frequency energy.

 

Speaker cables need to have low resistance, preferably less than 0.1 ohms. For lengths up to a few metres 12-gauge copper wire should be plenty.

 

With interconnects I believe good firm fitting connectors offer superior sound quality.

 

Absolutely.

 

I suspect that good insulation materials in both speaker cables and interconnects offer lower noise and cleaner sound.

 

I doubt there is any audible difference between typical materials used in modern cables, e.g. polyethylene and teflon. The main reason for choosing teflon is for fire-proofing. In normal domestic settings this is not a concern.

 

I believe well-made entry-level analog aftermarket cables offer superior sound quality over the junk sometimes included with audio equipment. Although I have doubts about digital cables sounding different, perhaps lower noise? I am not curious enough to experiment.

 

I have come across poor quality cables of various kinds (RCA, USB, HDMI). They were invariably dirt cheap (less than $5), and the deficiencies were obvious. Cables costing $15 or more are usually plenty good enough for short runs.

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Cables can sound different insofar as there are fault tolerances in the specs of each cable and no 2 cables will most likely perform exactly the same so there may be minute differences between 1 cable to the next. However if they are indeed compliant with the spec then they should perform properly within a given system.

 

Boutique/audiophile cables can sound considerably different if they do not follow spec and it is up to the listener to choose to believe this difference is desirable or not. It usually goes that the more expensive the purchase, the more likely the listener is to choose to believe that the difference is desirable as they have to justify the cost to themselves and possibly a significant other.

If I am anything, I am a music lover and a pragmatist.

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DIY cabling is simple to do and highly recommended. Good materials and construction are of importance (hence me selecting 'middle ground').

 

Every connection in my system is DIY cabled save for 1 Curious short tail between Intona and W4S Recovery.

Source:

*Aurender N100 (no internal disk : LAN optically isolated via FMC with *LPS) > DIY 5cm USB link (5v rail removed / ground lift switch - split for *LPS) > Intona Industrial (injected *LPS / internally shielded with copper tape) > DIY 5cm USB link (5v rail removed / ground lift switch) > W4S Recovery (*LPS) > DIY 2cm USB adaptor (5v rail removed / ground lift switch) > *Auralic VEGA (EXACT : balanced)

 

Control:

*Jeff Rowland CAPRI S2 (balanced)

 

Playback:

2 x Revel B15a subs (balanced) > ATC SCM 50 ASL (balanced - 80Hz HPF from subs)

 

Misc:

*Via Power Inspired AG1500 AC Regenerator

LPS: 3 x Swagman Lab Audiophile Signature Edition (W4S, Intona & FMC)

Storage: QNAP TS-253Pro 2x 3Tb, 8Gb RAM

Cables: DIY heavy gauge solid silver (balanced)

Mains: dedicated distribution board with 5 x 2 socket ring mains, all mains cables: Mark Grant Black Series DSP 2.5 Dual Screen

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DIY cabling is simple to do and highly recommended. Good materials and construction are of importance (hence me selecting 'middle ground').

 

Every connection in my system is DIY cabled save for 1 Curious short tail between Intona and W4S Recovery.

 

Care to share your technique for making cables? Or post a link where a person can get started?

 

"The function of music is to release us from the tyranny of conscious thought", Sir Thomas Beecham. 

 

 

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It mainly depends on the type of cable being made, but a decent quality soldering iron and 4% silver solder, wire cutters/strippers and various sizes of heat-shrink tube are the stock items (all available on eBay)... then you choose your materials (the wire and the connectors) and make them up.

 

That's about it.

Source:

*Aurender N100 (no internal disk : LAN optically isolated via FMC with *LPS) > DIY 5cm USB link (5v rail removed / ground lift switch - split for *LPS) > Intona Industrial (injected *LPS / internally shielded with copper tape) > DIY 5cm USB link (5v rail removed / ground lift switch) > W4S Recovery (*LPS) > DIY 2cm USB adaptor (5v rail removed / ground lift switch) > *Auralic VEGA (EXACT : balanced)

 

Control:

*Jeff Rowland CAPRI S2 (balanced)

 

Playback:

2 x Revel B15a subs (balanced) > ATC SCM 50 ASL (balanced - 80Hz HPF from subs)

 

Misc:

*Via Power Inspired AG1500 AC Regenerator

LPS: 3 x Swagman Lab Audiophile Signature Edition (W4S, Intona & FMC)

Storage: QNAP TS-253Pro 2x 3Tb, 8Gb RAM

Cables: DIY heavy gauge solid silver (balanced)

Mains: dedicated distribution board with 5 x 2 socket ring mains, all mains cables: Mark Grant Black Series DSP 2.5 Dual Screen

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I don't know how to define my beliefs about cables and SQ. I've never heard a clear or consistent difference between my 10 gauge copper twisted pair speaker wire and my son's megabuck substitute. I don't think I can hear any difference between my entry-level Audioquest interconnects and my son's megabuck stuff. And I've been unable to hear differences when comparing vanilla to crème brûlée cables in stores or other people's homes. I bought an 18" garden hose power cable for my power amp when they were on serious sale, and I don't hear any improvement from that either.

 

But I'm positive I hear a difference between the old garden variety USB cable I pulled from my drawer and the green Audioquest one I bought for about $35 to connect my BeagleBone Black to my DAC. The only reason I bought it (apart from a gnawing but faintly held hope that it would really sound better) was that I had nothing shorter than 6' and the BBB sits right next to the DAC. So I thought I'd buy the shortest one they had. And from note 1, it sounds clearer, cleaner, and is a measurable 1 to 2 db louder than the cheap ones. Bass is tighter and fuller at the same time. And this impression has held up for many many months now during which we moved from our house to an apartment - it's as obvious through my powered JBL monitors as it is through my Prima Luna tube amp and Focal towers. In all fairness, though, I haven't compared it to a new generic USB2 cable, so this may be a function of cable spec rather than cable manufacture.

 

When I first installed it, my wife came in from another room to find out what I'd bought because she thought the system sounded better than it had before (I was playing one of her favorites - Irma Thomas' The Story of My Life).

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Several sources mention these as the most relevant characteristics that affect interconnect cable performance/conductivity:

 

• geometry (twisted pair, braided, coaxial, parallel-distanced) - affects capacitance, inductance (?), interference rejection

• insulation material (dielectric) - affects capacitance, velocity of propagation (?)

• shielding - affects interference rejection

• conductor structure (solid core vs. stranded) - ... (?)

• conductor thickness - affects resistance, skin effect

• conductor properties (material purity, copper vs. silver) - ... (?)

 

It has been defended in another thread that most of these do not affect the audible range but it was also mentioned that some amplifiers (Spectral) have a frequency range going from DC to 1MHz in order to accurately reproduce the audible range.

 

Should we only look at cable performance/conductivity within the the audible range?

 

Thorsten Loesch (AMR/iFi) says the following:

 

"For me Audio-Frequencies means 4Hz - 100kHz in order to guarantee no more than 0.1db deviation at 20Hz or 20kHz."

 

He also mentions that:

"The Capacitance to cause a -0.1db Roll-off at 20kHz with a 100 Ohm Source Impedance is about 15nF.

If our source Impedance is however 1kOhm, a 1.5nF Capacitance will cause this roll-off."

 

I have an open mind about this.

It is possible that the current measurements and measuring equipment are not enough/adequate to characterize performance/conductivity.

 

-

 

As for speaker wire, many sources mention 1mm/18AWG as minimum thickness for speakers with a nominal impedance of 6 Ohm and distances up to 4-5 metres.

Resistance and Induction are apparently more relevant than Capacitance and insulation whilst shielding appears to be unnecessary in domestic applications.

 

-

 

Like Teresa I don't buy — nor "buy into" — expensive interconnect cables (>£50/m) nor speaker wire (>£2-3/m).

 

But I think that I can hear differences between different IC topologies and usually suggest that people compare braided, coaxial, parallel-distanced configurations.

It doesn't have to be expensive either; ICs are easy to make.

 

 

Curiously, Chris mentions in A Quick Spin With The RoonReady Sonore Sonicorbiter SE that "In this hobby that same $300 won't buy you one meter of cable."

Makes one wonder what audiophilia is turning into.

 

R

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

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My position is simply that all cables do not sound alike. Different cables of a particular type, e.g. USB, interconnect, speaker, may - not must - sound differently. More expensive cables do not necessarily sound better as there is no direct relationship between price and SQ. However, I have found that the cheapest cables rarely, if ever, produce the best SQ in a revealing system. IMO, the effect on SQ of cables is system dependent and a cable that sounds great in my system may not sound great in yours.

 

Personally, I don't require a scientific explanation for why cables may not sound alike. My experience in this hobby over several decades has convinced me that there are real differences and therefore I have neither the desire nor the need to prove to anyone else that these differences exist. OTOH, I am happy to share my experiences if they are of any benefit to others.

"Relax, it's only hi-fi. There's never been a hi-fi emergency." - Roy Hall

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." - William Bruce Cameron

 

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My position is part option number one and part option number two. Quality made cables with known properties (RG-59U is ideal for audio) that are well made are important for durability and reliability. Sound quality? Well, not so much. As I've said before, all a cable can do is subtract something from the signal it is passing. The cable itself can't actually add anything because it's passive (dirty or poor connections, can introduce distortion from the "diode effect", but that's not a function of the cable design so much as it is a function of connection hygiene and it's pretty rare). If cables (we're talking interconnects here, speaker cables can be a different case) do sound different from one another, it's possibly because they are behaving as filters that are acting upon different portions of the audio spectrum. The cable can't remove distortion, can't make anything more "transparent". If it is making one's stereo sound "better" it's because it's affecting a part of the spectrum that tickle's the listener's particular fancy by attenuating other portions of the spectrum somewhat. In such a case, it's not a cable any more, it's a fixed tone control. At any rate, the cables I use certainly sound transparent to me. If I made an effort to swap-out one cable for another, and listen to the results of the swap, it's possible that I would hear a difference (I certainly have before), but is it the cable I'm hearing or my own expectational and confirmation bias at work? I don't know. I can't know, and since every time I've heard cable differences, they've been extremely subtle, so much so that I couldn't even put my finger on what was different about the presentation (I just knew that one sounded different and perhaps, slightly "better" than the other). I decided long ago, that not only was the difference not profound enough to worry about, it was way too trivial to actually spend my hard-earned money on.

George

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The results of this poll seem at odds with all the disagreements we have here regarding cables. (I picked the first answer to be impish, but really agree more with the second answer -- although in practice my definition of well-constructed would include not imparting coloration to the sound).

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Care to share your technique for making cables? Or post a link where a person can get started?

 

There are some DIY cable projects at diyaudioprojects.com that may be of interest. I'm using the Belden mains cables with all the components in my system and believe that they've made a positive impact. Another benefit with the DIY cables is that you can make them the actual length you need instead of having excess cable coiled up behind your equipment.

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Several sources mention these as the most relevant characteristics that affect interconnect cable performance/conductivity:

 

• geometry (twisted pair, braided, coaxial, parallel-distanced) - affects capacitance, inductance (?), interference rejection

• insulation material (dielectric) - affects capacitance, velocity of propagation (?)

• shielding - affects interference rejection

• conductor structure (solid core vs. stranded) - ... (?)

• conductor thickness - affects resistance, skin effect

• conductor properties (material purity, copper vs. silver) - ... (?)

 

It has been defended in another thread that most of these do not affect the audible range but it was also mentioned that some amplifiers (Spectral) have a frequency range going from DC to 1MHz in order to accurately reproduce the audible range.

 

Should we only look at cable performance/conductivity within the the audible range?

 

 

That's an interesting point. Could it be that the cable is affecting the performance of the equipment that it's connecting together up in the VHF range and that ultrasonic performance is affecting the way the component behaves in the audio range? The maths for cables like Belden RG-59U says probably not (the Xc and Xl for this class of cable is too low at 1 MHz to actually affect the stability of the circuitry in the components it's connecting together), but who knows about some of these "boutique cables"? Perhaps their VHF specs are such that they could actually affect the audible performance of the circuitry to which they're connected. This would go a long way toward explaining why some cables affect some applications and not others, or why the same cable might sound different in one setup than it does in another (as has been reported many times on this forum). Nice going semente!

 

Thorsten Loesch (AMR/iFi) says the following:

 

"For me Audio-Frequencies means 4Hz - 100kHz in order to guarantee no more than 0.1db deviation at 20Hz or 20kHz."

 

He also mentions that:

"The Capacitance to cause a -0.1db Roll-off at 20kHz with a 100 Ohm Source Impedance is about 15nF.

If our source Impedance is however 1kOhm, a 1.5nF Capacitance will cause this roll-off."

 

He's right enough, in that his maths are correct. It's the conclusions drawn from the maths that I take issue with. It is well known that a pre-adolescent female has the best hearing of all humans. Most can hear well into the 20 KHz range. But even that ideal 12-year old girl isn't going to hear a 0.01 dB roll-off at 20 KHz, much less a bunch of middle-aged (and older) male audiophiles. Debating this point is about as useful as debating which shade of ultraviolet is the prettiest!

 

I have an open mind about this.

It is possible that the current measurements and measuring equipment are not enough/adequate to characterize performance/conductivity.

 

Well, on this point semente, you can go ahead and close it. A 0.01 dB difference is inaudible at 1 KHz, much less 20 KHz!

 

-

 

As for speaker wire, many sources mention 1mm/18AWG as minimum thickness for speakers with a nominal impedance of 6 Ohm and distances up to 4-5 metres.

Resistance and Induction are apparently more relevant than Capacitance and insulation whilst shielding appears to be unnecessary in domestic applications.

 

Speaker wires are different. Due to the low impedances involved, speaker wire can have an effect on system performance. I'm not saying that they always do or even that they usually do. But depending on the speaker and the amp involved, they can affect the sound.

 

-

Like Teresa I don't buy — nor "buy into" — expensive interconnect cables (>£50/m) nor speaker wire (>£2-3/m).

 

But I think that I can hear differences between different IC topologies and usually suggest that people compare braided, coaxial, parallel-distanced configurations.

It doesn't have to be expensive either; ICs are easy to make.

 

 

Curiously, Chris mentions in A Quick Spin With The RoonReady Sonore Sonicorbiter SE that "In this hobby that same $300 won't buy you one meter of cable."

Makes one wonder what audiophilia is turning into.

 

R

 

I'm with you there, buddy. It is getting crazy. There was a time when a well-off blade would take his money and buy himself a Ferrari and a top-of-the-line stereo system. Now he has to decide whether he's going to buy himself a Ferrari or a top-of-the-line stereo system, and the stereo system can cost as much as FOUR Ferraris!

George

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Another benefit with the DIY cables is that you can make them the actual length you need instead of having excess cable coiled up behind your equipment.

 

Nailled it!

 

;-)

Source:

*Aurender N100 (no internal disk : LAN optically isolated via FMC with *LPS) > DIY 5cm USB link (5v rail removed / ground lift switch - split for *LPS) > Intona Industrial (injected *LPS / internally shielded with copper tape) > DIY 5cm USB link (5v rail removed / ground lift switch) > W4S Recovery (*LPS) > DIY 2cm USB adaptor (5v rail removed / ground lift switch) > *Auralic VEGA (EXACT : balanced)

 

Control:

*Jeff Rowland CAPRI S2 (balanced)

 

Playback:

2 x Revel B15a subs (balanced) > ATC SCM 50 ASL (balanced - 80Hz HPF from subs)

 

Misc:

*Via Power Inspired AG1500 AC Regenerator

LPS: 3 x Swagman Lab Audiophile Signature Edition (W4S, Intona & FMC)

Storage: QNAP TS-253Pro 2x 3Tb, 8Gb RAM

Cables: DIY heavy gauge solid silver (balanced)

Mains: dedicated distribution board with 5 x 2 socket ring mains, all mains cables: Mark Grant Black Series DSP 2.5 Dual Screen

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Thorsten Loesch (AMR/iFi) says the following:

 

"For me Audio-Frequencies means 4Hz - 100kHz in order to guarantee no more than 0.1db deviation at 20Hz or 20kHz."

 

He's right enough, in that his maths are correct. It's the conclusions drawn from the maths that I take issue with. It is well known that a pre-adolescent female has the best hearing of all humans. Most can hear well into the 20 KHz range. But even that ideal 12-year old girl isn't going to hear a 0.01 dB roll-off at 20 KHz, much less a bunch of middle-aged (and older) male audiophiles. Debating this point is about as useful as debating which shade of ultraviolet is the prettiest!

 

If any component in the signal path can affect performance/accuracy (though in different degrees of magnitude), shouldn't we strive to find and select those that do the least damage?

I mean, aren't these adverse effects additive?

 

"The Capacitance to cause a -0.1db Roll-off at 20kHz with a 100 Ohm Source Impedance is about 15nF.

If our source Impedance is however 1kOhm, a 1.5nF Capacitance will cause this roll-off."

 

I have an open mind about this.

It is possible that the current measurements and measuring equipment are not enough/adequate to characterize performance/conductivity.

 

Well, on this point semente, you can go ahead and close it. A 0.01 dB difference is inaudible at 1 KHz, much less 20 KHz!

 

I am perfectly conscious that it is inaudible.

 

But with so many people reporting that they hear differences, isn't there a possibility that we have yet to find the causes and the measurements that characterize those differences?

Or is this just a case of mass hysteria?

 

Best,

Ricardo

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

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That's more plausible than unknown physics being at play.

 

It's not a matter of unknown physics but of looking for unknown possible causes other than restricting it all to isolated LCR effects.

 

The story of TIM keeps coming to my mind: (delusional) people could hear it but (arrogant) engineers dismissed it.

 

R

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

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Reliability and security of any connection is a high priority.

 

If there is a gas tight banana plug or other connector that can keep moisture out in sub-tropical and tropical climates, the use of copper will cause problems with oxidation on speaker terminals. I have silver plated copper (SPC) teflon cables from the 80's and the ends of them still look as good today as when I bought them. Supra copper cables bought at the same time are really dark ends, even if cut a little further, the moisture wicks up the conductors. The SPC cables often go hand in hand with making them from Teflon, which has greater insulation properties than air.

 

For RCA interconnects, the most useless legacy unbalanced system there is, the shielding is in the signal path and how good the shield is, yields a different SQ, even if the cable is unplugged/replugged. Go for shielding that covers 99% using a braid and not a foil either, or avoid the RCA altogether if possible!

 

Looking at connectors, can only speak directly for Nordost USB and digital cables since these are used in my system, the Nordost connectors used are a tighter fit, examples the BNC and USB A/B. Compared with a popular brand of USB cable in these pages, the measurments on the Nordost A & B plug are closer to the USB.org recommendations of the connector dimensions, which then tend to keep moisture out of the connections, not really gas tight, but best practice.

The characteristics of USB cables are really critical when used with anything other than a straight computer to DAC connection. The level of hum increases skyward at every interface compared with the source ground. Does anybody still use the optical Dow Corning optical cables for their USB, would solve the hum issue.

 

Far as power cables are concerned, DIY makes things easier to get the right length as other have pointed out, and the use of shielded mains cables just avoids any induction in close proximity to signal cables. Power connections are usually a bronze alloy, since the connection must be tight, yet flexible and provide for corrosion resistance, not a simple matter.

 

As for $7500 interconnects (I was quoted for one USB A to B cable) ....there's a market for everything. That's a lot of money which can put to better use, eg better speakers, computer sources, holidays....better cables.

AS Profile Equipment List        Say NO to MQA

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If any component in the signal path can affect performance/accuracy (though in different degrees of magnitude), shouldn't we strive to find and select those that do the least damage?

I mean, aren't these adverse effects additive?

 

Sure. If you run a 20 KHz signal through 10 such lengths of cable, that signal will be attenuated by 0.1 dB. You can't hear that either. Or, you could run it through 100 such lengths of cable, and that 20 KHz signal will be attenuated by ONE whole dB, but there's nobody contributing to this forum that could hear that either! Such minute variations from cable to cable mean nothing as nobody can hear them - especially at 20 KHz or above.

 

I am perfectly conscious that it is inaudible.

 

But with so many people reporting that they hear differences, isn't there a possibility that we have yet to find the causes and the measurements that characterize those differences?

 

While we cannot absolutely dismiss the possibility; as has been repeated here many times on CA, it's highly unlikely. As important as wire is in the modern world, if any real heretofore unknown anomaly in the characteristics of conductors were to show up, it would have been well studied by now, wouldn't you think? I mean audio is just entertainment, and while that's OK, there are tasks for wire that are actually life crucial. Millions of air passengers rely on wire to carry the signals that make the planes fly, heart patients rely on wires to carry the life-giving pulses of their pacemaker to make their hearts beat properly. We rely on wire for so many critical tasks in the modern world, that the chance that some characteristic of the stuff has escaped our notice and hasn't been quantified, is probably a billion-to-one!

 

 

Or is this just a case of mass hysteria?

 

Best,

Ricardo

 

That is probably much more likely than your above hypothesis. After all, mass hysteria, expectation bias, confirmation bias, and other artifacts of the human psychological condition actually do exist, and have been noticed in many areas of human endeavor. I.E. at least we know for a fact that these conditions are real.

George

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